The recent announcement of several Columbia County business closures and layoffs might have far-reaching effects in the community.
Two Food Lion grocery stores in Evans and one in Martinez will close by Feb. 15. Deemed by corporate staff as underperforming, the locations at 526 North Belair Road, 3851 Evans-to-Locks Road and 4087 Old Petersburg Road are shutting down.
In addition, news last week that workers were laid off at Club Car’s Evans facility, and that the Ryan’s buffet restaurant on Bobby Jones Expressway will close, means more people will soon be out of work.
As of Thursday, the Georgia Department of Labor was unable to provide information on how many and what type of jobs would be lost because of the recent closures and layoffs.
“The thing that I guess is encouraging is those retail spaces are located in some pretty good demographic areas with a lot of high-traffic patterns,” Columbia County Development Authority Executive Director Troy Post said. “That’s attractive to a lot of retail companies that are considering this market.”
Post said a market already saturated with grocery stores is the likely cause of the Food Lion closures.
Post noted that the TaxSlayer company, which is scheduled to open later this year in Marshall Square, is actively recruiting future employees, and that Georgia Iron Works in Grovetown continues to add members to its workforce.
“There is some absorption through those local employers,” he said.
Commercial Realtors representing the shopping centers anchored by the closing Food Lions also have started to look for new businesses to fill the soon-to-be vacant space, Post said.
Within the Village at Furys Ferry, another grocery store or fitness-related company could replace Food Lion, said Blanchard and Calhoun Vice President Matt Mills, who is currently in talks with potential tenants.
Because that Food Lion location was underachieving, the smaller businesses in the shopping center won’t be as negatively affected as they normally would be, Mills said.
“The tenants we have in there were not depending on the foot traffic from Food Lion to begin with,” he said.
In addition to job losses, the grocery store closures also could hurt local charities.
Golden Harvest Food Bank relies on contributions from area businesses and must start looking at other methods to make up for the loss in donations when those businesses close.
Golden Harvest is a distribution center for area food pantries to collect food items. The pantries, in turn, pass out the products to the needy.
When the three county Food Lions close next month, Golden Harvest will lose more than 141,000 pounds of food annually, said Director of Special Projects Travis McNeal.
“That’s a lot of pounds, and that’s a lot of meals,” he said. “Essentially, a meal is a pound. We’ll be missing those 141,000 pounds.”